An American man killed himself by cutting his neck in a courtroom in Changhua County yesterday morning, after being convicted of possession of marijuana and sentenced to four years in prison.
The man — identified as 41-year-old US citizen Tyrel Martin Marhanka — was rushed to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
According to witnesses, after the Changhua District Court judge read his ruling, Marhanka turned to the translator, who told him the sentence, before Marhanka was heard saying: “Four years?”
Photo: Screengrab from the Internet
The translator told Marhanka that he could appeal the decision, but he replied: “I don’t want to appeal.”
Becoming agitated, he yelled: “I don’t want to live anymore,” took out two metal objects, and with one in each hand stabbed himself on both sides of the neck, severing the arteries, which gushed blood, according to witnesses.
Court officials said Marhanka had smuggled in a pair of 21cm scissors, which he had separated into two sharp metal blades.
Marhanka was arrested in April last year and charged with possession of marijuana and other narcotics, after police found more than 200 cannabis plants, 195 dried cannabis plants and 10 opium poppies at a rented house in Yongjing Township (永靖), Changhua County.
At the time of his arrest, Marhanka told police officers he grew the plants as a “hobby” and that they were all intended for his own use.
Marhanka had lived in Taiwan for more than 15 years, and had a Taiwanese wife and two children — a son in second grade and a daughter in kindergarten — court officials said.
His wife was distraught when notified of the news, and went to the hospital where he had died.
The district court convened a press conference yesterday afternoon, in which presiding judge Wang Yi-min (王義閔) said the court regretted what happened, and that Marhanka’s family and the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) had been contacted through judiciary channels.
Wang said there was negligence in the incident, adding that the court would improve security measures, including installing an X-ray machine to check on people entering the court’s new building.
Wang said the bailiffs in the courtroom rushed in to help Marhanka and tried to stop the bleeding, but the incident happened too quickly and they were too late to prevent his death.
Medics who rushed Marhanka to the local hospital said the victim’s neck had 12cm and 7cm lacerations on the left and right sides respectively. He was still conscious when they arrived at the hospital, but died about 30 minutes later.
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